A controversy regarding the safety of tire crumb (a material found on many artificial turf playing fields) may lead to another large class action in the near future.
Studies of Tire Crumb
During the late 1990s, the EPA found a way to recycle old tires by using them as filling on turf playing fields. Since then, nearly 11,000 playgrounds and playing fields across the United States have been built using tire crumb as a result.
Many scientists have speculated that the tire crumb found on these turf fields may cause cancer in players who frequent the fields. Studies have been conducted with different conclusions. A study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for example, concluded that the materials that comprised the tire crumb “were below levels considered harmful.” However, this data was based on only four study sites which may limit the accuracy of the conclusion. Another report conducted in 2010 by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Health found that tire crumb posed “no elevated health risks.”
On the other hand, the California EPA concluded that there was a human health risk of inhaling air just above synthetic turf. In 2009, a University of Washington soccer coach, Amy Griffin, discovered that many of her goalies suffered from cancer, more than any other players on the field. Griffin later conducted studies of her own, and found a list of 230 athletes who had cancer. This list contains 183 soccer players, 114 of which are goalies.
In an article published by Bloomberg BNA, Griffin states “During a practice, [goalkeepers] hit the ground more than 100 times easily and are covered in those black dots.”
Environmental and Human Health Inc. (EHHI) began to question the safety of tire crumb in 2007, and commissioned a study by professor Gaboury Benoit of Yale University to assess the carcinogenic materials that may be found in tire crumb.
The study found the following carcinogens within tire crumb:
- Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate
Possible Legal Actions
The EPA is currently conducting another study that will be due at the end of this year. Ted Tredennick of Daniels & Tredennick stated “At this point, we see indicia, which we always see before there’s adequate proof of causation… We see clusters of people getting the same type of diseases with the only common link being exposure to these fields.”
There still remains a problem of causality, specifically the cause-and-effect of how crumbs of tire rubber can cause cancer. There still remains very little research regarding the risks of tire crumb, as its use on playfields has only been enacted within the past two decades.
“These fields are relatively new,” said Tredennick. “It’s been less than two decades and the number of people exposed is going up. The statistical pool has to get to the point where we can do statistical analysis.”
Another attorney, Don Arbitblit, had parallel opinion of the circumstance, stating “If the government comes up with new data or new information making it more viable, we’d consider it.”